H.I.R.T. A Safer More Effective Alternative To H.I.I.T.

By Neil O’Hanlon

Let me tell you what I’ve been doing lately and I think you’ll like it. This workout is something I’ve been using for a while now, and I think it makes a hell of a lot of sense. If you’ve ever tried H.I.I.T. High Intensity Interval Training then you may initially be put off, but bear with me on this. I myself am not a fan of H.I.I.T. training. In fact I absolutely hate it, but there’s one word that makes a massive difference between the two and that’s ‘Repeat’ as opposed to ‘Interval’.

High Intensity Interval Training Versus High Intensity Repeat Training

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You probably all know the common training method of ‘High intensity interval training’. I’ve tried it several times not just with running but using burpee’s, mountain climbers, squats and many other forms of bodyweight exercises. I’ve even gone to the extreme of ‘Tabata’ training which consists of 20 seconds balls out sprints and a very short recovery time of 10 seconds. I would  repeat this eight times for a total of four minutes and you’re done. The problem I found with both HIIT and Tabata, is it needs to be done at 100% maximum effort in order to really take affect, which I know most people won’t do. However if I was to do it correctly at 100% effort it leaves me absolutely wiped out. Yes I may feel like I’ve accomplished a gruelling workout, BUT I feel exhausted, absolutely knackered, my cortisol levels have gone through the roof and I generally don’t want to exist for the rest of the day. 

Remember that’s if you do it correctly at 100% all out effort. To me this is – SIMPLY NOT SUSTAINABLE! 

Enter High Intensity Repeat Training Workouts

Okay, you can probably tell I’m not a big fan of High Intensity Interval Training or Tabata, but I can tell you, that I’ve found a smarter way of training, which I believe has a greater effect on my endurance and long-term body strength. High Intensity Repeat Training is differentiated by repeats instead of intervals and a much longer recovery period. Bad form occurs in high intensity interval training because the rest period is so short which means the recovery is incomplete. The problem with this being, when the next interval starts the person is already fatigued. This incomplete recovery leads to a steady decline in performance after each interval. HIRT on the other hand means you maintain the same high level of performance over time, due to increased recovery.

H.I.R.T. reduces long-term stress on the body that comes from H.I.I.T. training

Each Repeat Should Be As Good As The Last

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The key component of HIRT is to maintain effort and power on each and every repeat. For instance, when I do sprints using this method, I try to maximise rest intervals so each sprint I do could be better or at least the same as the sprint before. The rest and recovery element of this is vital so I can repeat my performance again and again, and not watch it decline. I won’t bore you with the science in this article but simply putting it

A little bit of boring science for you. More rest, allows for more time for our ATP and creatine phosphate system to recover and should provide better performance on the maximal effort attempts – like you give a shit how it works?  

I normally keep my sprints to around 10 to 15 seconds or less so that my recovery can occur much quicker. An example of this would be doing one 10 second sprint every minute on the minute for about 10 minutes. So I will sprint for 10 seconds all out, then recover for 50 seconds x 10 = 10 minute workout. The key is to have maximum power for each and every set and run the last sprint as fast as you’re first.

A single 30 second sprint increases the AMP ATP ratio by as much as 21 times – but you don’t need to know that do you?

Here Are Some Key Components To HIRT

less is more. Bauhaus Movement

Whilst I’m doing the sprints, I must be able to repeat the high intensity performance every time. If I can’t repeat it, then I’ll end the training session as it’s quite obvious more rest is needed. Intensity is key. The goal is to practice the exercises with maximal intensity for a short duration of time. 

Don’t worry about your feelings of guilt for not training longer, as doing more than the specified sets will not help you in the long run. Just enjoy the short workout, I do.

As I’ve said, for me work duration should be between 10 to 15 seconds as I’ve found any longer leads to decreased performance and the need for more rest. Many people have very good results with four minutes of rest for 30 seconds work. It’s such a nice feeling to have a longer rest break, it almost feels luxurious. Like I’ve said, for 10 seconds of intense work there should be about 50 seconds of rest. Training every minute, on the minute works well for 10 seconds of intense work.

Keeping the work time short allows for maximal effort and a quicker repeat performance

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Pick An Exercise Thats Comfortable

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If you don’t want to use sprinting then pick exercises with less risk of injury and the ability to maintain maximum power. Sprinting form can be difficult for many people. Also the power in the sprint can only be maximised for the first few seconds of the sprint, after that it’s the maintenance or deceleration that’s important. Using an exercise bike may be better and probably safer for a normally sedentary or novice athlete. Using a rowing machine is also a good alternative. Whatever you decide to do, the key is to do it with maximum power.   

Depending on your goals then doing HIRT workouts 1 to 2 times a week should be beneficial. If your goal is to build greater endurance, then 2 to 3 days a week will be better. I normally do between 1 to 2 a week and I normally just tag them on to the end of a very slow, low intensity run.

Important for all the newbies though, you need to separate strength from conditioning. Do not think HIRT is a way to build strength. You must have some strength first

The Takeaway 

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Hopefully that’s inspired you to give this time efficient workout a go. Using what I’ve explained above, I’ve  created a short 7 to 10 minute HIRT workout for you to try or incorporate regularly into your training. I’ve used sprints for the example, but feel free to change as required.

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7 – 10 Minute H.I.R.T. Workout Using Sprints

  • Sprint for 10 seconds as far as possible.
  • Rest for 50 seconds either walking or standing still. 
  • Measure the distance after each sprint and try to maintain it. 
  • Do one sprint every minute for 7 to 10 sets. 
  • I like to vary the volume each session by doing low medium and high volume days for instance either 5, 7 or 10 sets. 
  • Remember though if you can’t maintain the distance, then the training session is complete and you need to add more rest to your next training session.

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